Next Generation Highways

In this episode of the Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP Podcast, Jessica Oh – strategic partnerships director in the sustainability and public health office within the Minnesota Department of Transportation – discusses the “next generation highway” her agency is studying.

EPISODE NOTES

The Ray and consulting firm NGI released the NextGen Highways Feasibility Study for Minnesota DOT in April; a study that examined strategies for “co-locating” electric and communications infrastructure in highway rights-of-way or ROWs.

The study focused on the potential deployment of buried, high-voltage/direct current or HVDC transmission lines within Minnesota interstate and highway ROWs – an effort that offers broader implications for highway ROW strategies in other states.

In April 2021, the Federal Highway Administration released guidance clarifying the highway ROW “can be leveraged by state DOTs for pressing public needs relating to climate change, equitable communications access, and energy reliability.”

Projects listed include renewable energy generation, electrical transmission and distribution projects, broadband projects, vegetation management, inductive charging in travel lanes, and alternative fueling facilities, among others.

“At the heart of this study is the need to examine the energy transmission infrastructure we will need in order to electrify our transportation network; part of a broader effort to decarbonize the U.S. economy,” Oh explained during the podcast.

“The concept we’re evaluating looked specifically at burying [electric power] transmission lines in the highway ROW,” she noted. “Only three states allow for that now. Yet the use of existing distributed ROW could contain the visual impact of expanding our electric grid while lessening the need to acquire more land to support more transmission.”

Building transmission capacity in existing highway ROW could also reduce project-siting timelines by seven to 10 years, Oh added, while reducing the need to work with hundreds of landowners on a project down to dealing with a single state department of transportation.

“There is a great benefit for communities if they allow transmission capacity to be built in the highway ROW,” she emphasized.

Other partners on the project include, Satterfield Consulting, Great Plains Institute, 5 Lakes Energy and Tracy Warren.

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Jessica Oh

Dr. Shawn Wilson, Louisiana DOTD Secretary: Perspectives on Transportation Funding, Safety, Workforce Issues, and More

Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development Secretary Dr. Shawn Wilson joins the ITE Talks Transportation podcast for a dynamic conversation on the state of the industry and why he feels it’s “the most exciting time” ever to work in transportation. He shares his perspectives on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and how the funding can help state DOTs address safety, especially for vulnerable users. He also addresses the myriad of challenges brought on by COVID-19 for DOTs, and discusses how agencies can gain a competitive edge among the current workforce. Dr. Wilson was a plenary speaker at the ITE Annual Meeting in New Orleans and spoke alongside U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg.

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Dr. Shawn Wilson

Electric Vehicles and State DOTs

Dr. Shihab Kuran discusses the key role state departments of transportation play in helping establish a national electric vehicle or EV charging network.

Kuran is the co-founder and CEO of Power Edison as well as co-founder and executive chairman of its sister company EV Edison – companies offering innovative renewable energy, EV charging, and mobile energy storage solutions for the grid. Kuran explains how a “vision” for a peaceful world with universal access to clean and sustainable sources of energy, food, and water drives his efforts in the EV sector. Here, Kuran lays out a variety of approaches and solutions for meeting the electric grid demand generated by EV charging – how state DOTs can support those efforts.

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Dr. Shihab Kuran

Native Language Road Signs with Iowa and Minnesota DOTs

The United States is a country with no national language, and with over 150 Indigenous languages still spoken today. With 5.2 million Indigenous people residing in the US today, speaking these 150+ languages—why aren’t more of our road signs printed in these native languages? Teams from the Iowa and Minnesota Departments of Transportation, along with Indigenous partners set out to change that. Joining us today on the podcast to discuss this project are: Brennan Dolan, the Cultural Resources Team Lead and Tribal Liaison at Iowa DOT; Ed Fairbanks, the retired Tribal Liaison for the Minnesota DOT and Mary Otto, the Tribal State Relations Training Manager in Minnesota DOT’s Office of Tribal Affairs.

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Mary Otto

Ed Fairbanks
Brennan Dolan

Rob McInerney, International Road Assessment Programme – Improving Global Roadway Safety with the Safe System Approach

Rob McInerney, CEO of the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), joins the ITE Talks Transportation podcast to talk about global roadway safety through the Safe System Approach, Vision Zero, and how those integrate into the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030. He also highlights rural roadway safety, where a large portion of global fatalities are concentrated in run-off-the-road crashes, and discusses mobilizing positive change by designing roads for outcomes, versus standards, to bring deaths and serious injuries down to zero.

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Rob McInerney

COMTO, AASHTO and Transportation Equity with April Rai

Equity in transportation has become a major topic of interest the past few years, but the need for a more just transportation sector is not new. Groups like the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) began working to promote equity in transportation decades before the concept became mainstream. COMTO was founded in 1971, just over 50 years ago, and as the association representing minorities in transportation they aim to ensure opportunities and maximum participation in the transportation industry for minority individuals, veterans, people with disabilities, as well as minority, women, and disadvantaged business enterprises. COMTO’s work towards equity heavily intersects with environmental topics such as environmental justice, workforce diversity, public involvement and more. Joining us to chat about equity, transportation and the environment is April Rai, the President and Chief Executive Officer of COMTO.

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April Rai

How Carmel, Indiana Became the ‘Roundabout Capital of the United States’

Jeremy Kashman, chief engineer and director of engineering for the City of Carmel, Indiana joins the ITE Talks Transportation podcast to talk about how his city became the “Roundabout Capital of the United States.” With more than 140 existing roundabouts and more in the works, Kashman describes the process of installing these roundabouts and the benefits they provide, including decreased congestion, improved safety, and reduced emissions. Kashman also describes the public’s reaction to the roundabouts, and provides insights for any jurisdictions considering installing the structures.

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Jeremy Kashman

Equity in Electric Vehicle Charging

Empty your pockets at the gas station each week or navigate charging anxiety? Americans are caught in a Catch-22; and that’s just for folks with the income to consider purchasing an electric vehicle. As gas prices climb quicker than electric vehicle charging infrastructure expands, organizations like Forth and the Greenlining Institute are working to ensure equitable access to a growing electric vehicle charging network.

In 2019, the Federal Highway Administration reported that the average American drove 14,263 miles per year- or 274 miles a week. The average electric vehicle battery can go ~250 miles between charges- which would seem to be plenty of range most of the time. But what about that occasional road trip? More importantly, what about people who can’t easily charge up in their garage? 

Leslie Aguayo, climate equity program manager at the Greenlining Institute and Jeff Allen, the executive director at Forth, join us on AASHTO’s ETAP Podcast to discuss just that—equitable electric vehicle charging.

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Leslie Aguayo

Jeff Allen

Interview with Joint Office of Energy and Transportation

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) created the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation to facilitate collaboration between the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Transportation.

The Joint Office will align resources and expertise across the two departments toward leveraged outcomes. The office will be a critical component in the implementation of the BIL, providing support and expertise to a multitude of programs that seek to deploy a network of electric vehicle chargers, zero-emission fueling infrastructure, and zero-emission transit and school buses. BIL also created what is now being called the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula program or NEVI.

In early February, FHWA released the guidance for the NEVI program and the state departments of transportation are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on developing state EV infrastructure deployment plans that will be submitted to the Joint Office by Aug. 1, 2022 In the meantime, state DOTs are partnering with their sister state agencies like state energy offices and working with the Joint Office to leverage the expertise and technical assistance available through this interagency partnership. Today we’re joined on the ETAP podcast by Dr. Rachael Nealer, the Deputy Director of the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation.

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Dr. Rachael Nealer

US Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg – National Roadway Safety Strategy, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and More

Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg joins the ITE Talks Transportation podcast to discuss the Department of Transportation’s newly announced National Roadway Safety Strategy, which utilizes the Safe System Approach to achieve zero fatalities and serious injuries on roadways. She also shares the administration’s plans and perspective on transportation-related goals for the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act, as well as how equitable outcomes are a major priority for implementing this historic legislation.

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Polly Trottenberg